What Does It Mean to “Surrender to God”?

mwspear96 asked a question:

Hey brother. I’ve been a Christian for about five years now, and I always hear people say that we have to surrender everything to God, (heck, I’ve even preached it myself.) Although, I’m not sure how to actually do that. I’ve been living for myself for so long that it seems like an impossible task. How do you actually surrender everything to God? Do I just need to pray more? I know there’s no formula for it, but I would deeply appreciate any input. Thanks, it means a lot.

Hey dear friend, thank you for sharing your concerns: it really is a scary thing to think about “surrendering to God.” It’s a very Christianese thing to say, and I think it carries a lot of unnecessary baggage that we might need to dismantle before finding true surrender.

The thing is, it seems that some of the church-culture has taken on an “Epic Hollywood” type thrill-seeking, and it assumes “radical” is the same as selling all your stuff and moving to a third world village and living off indigenous worms. The word “surrender” is sometimes abused to mean “your life only means something if you give up everything and become a pastor and evangelize in a hostile forbidden city.”

While it’s true that God might uppercut you into a completely crazy situation for His work, Jesus also said to count the cost. It means to know what you’re getting into. It means that we surrender our abilities and gifting and resources to the appropriate place for a sustainable daily sacrifice.

Having a romanticized view of surrender inadvertently creates a lot of disillusioned twenty-somethings who feel they’re never doing enough for God. But you can surrender right where you are. You can surrender your time to the church nursery, or an elderly neighbor, or a shelter nearby, or answering questions through a blog.

We can’t save everyone as much as we’d like to, and I know the world has so many hurts and deficits, but God created you in a particular way to heal your corner of the universe. That can look like moving to Uganda to serve at an orphanage for the rest of your life, or bringing your medical degree to one of many Mercy Ships, or mowing your neighbor’s lawn and washing their car. It doesn’t have to look like Hollywood. It can be eye to eye, in the ten foot space around you.

A last thing. Everyone is already surrendering to something. Your mind, your voice, your time, your affections: they’re all going somewhere, not perfectly, but passionately. When you sit still without a phone or laptop, your mind is wandering, and the things you’re preoccupied with are usually the most important things in your life. Part of surrender means deliberately reminding yourself of what matters, of the bigger kingdom than the world, that your life is meant for more than collecting and being entertained, and that Jesus means to speak life through you the same way that he spoke into you.

This is tough to do, because we are each fallible frail squishy human beings who are easily distracted by the latest, loudest emotions. But surrendering yourself is that daily choice to listen to the pulse of the Creator, to get in tune with His goodness, to remember there’s something at stake here in the world: the souls of your brothers and sisters and your larger community.

Surrender means I must set myself aside a lot of the time, because I’m so busy looking at myself, that I forget to see what God has done for me through Jesus – and it’s by beholding His beauty that I can begin to move in His grace to give grace. Surrender means giving up what you never needed anyway – your pride, bitterness, lust, apathy, and envy – and replacing these with the joy and truth and discipline of Christ. It will initially feel like sacrifice, but it’s the best deal there is. Every other master says “Serve me or die,” but Jesus is the only master who says “I will die to serve you.” And so we serve him, by His grace, the best we know how.

— J.S.

7 thoughts on “What Does It Mean to “Surrender to God”?

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